February 26, 2021

Coronavirus: Premier League return inches closer as clubs vote to resume contact training

May 27, 2020

The Premier League has moved a step closer to restarting fixtures as coronavirus restrictions are eased, after clubs voted unanimously to resume contact training.

Players will now be asked to train as a group, with the move allowing them to tackle each other again "while minimising any unnecessary close contact".

A statement issued by the league to mark the shift to stage two of its plan to resume training amid the COVID-19 pandemic said: "The Premier League's priority is the health and wellbeing of all participants.

"Strict medical protocols are in place to ensure the training ground is the safest environment possible and players and staff will continue to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week."

Clubs are working towards a return to fixtures on 19 June, with matches taking place behind closed doors.

The statement said discussions were "ongoing as work continues towards resuming the season, when conditions allow".

The league was boosted in its efforts to resume action when just two of 996 players and club staff - from two different clubs - tested for coronavirus last week were found to be infected.

Since it began its extensive programme of testing, it has announced a total of eight positive results, including Watford defender Adrian Mariappa and Burnley assistant manager Ian Woan.

Clubs began the first phase of 'Project Restart' last week after agreeing to a return to training in small groups under strict limitations and with no contact.

Phase two will allow up to 10 players to work together and eases the time restrictions on training sessions, allowing players to be closer.

No matches have been played in the Premier League since March but Wednesday's vote is a big step towards the completion of the 92 remaining fixtures.

The third phase would involve a shift to a more typical form of training in the build-up to actual games.

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Watford striker Troy Deeney said last week he would not return immediately to training, citing fears around the health of his five-month-old son, who has breathing difficulties.

He also said he had questioned officials over extra protections for players who are black, Asian or of mixed heritage given evidence they could be at greater risk of developing severe symptoms of coronavirus.

"For black, Asian and mixed ethnicities they are four times more likely to get the illness and we're twice as likely to have long-lasting illnesses," he said.

"Is there any additional screening? Heart stuff to see if people have got problems? No. Okay, well I feel like that should be addressed."

The Premier League has said it will support a trophy presentation for whoever is crowned champions if it is safe to do so.

That is likely to be Liverpool, who were 25 points clear at the top of the table when the season was halted and only need two more wins to clinch their first top-flight title in 30 years.

Next week from Monday to Thursday, Dermot Murnaghan will be hosting After the Pandemic: Our New World - a series of special live programmes about what our world will be like once the pandemic is over.

We'll be joined by some of the biggest names from the worlds of culture, politics, economics, science and technology. And you can take part too. If you'd like to be in our virtual audience - from your own home - and put questions to the experts, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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